By Jamie Hill
Ever since former President Jimmy Carter admitting to having lust in his heart, the word 'lust' has been on my personal radar. That was back in the seventies. I was a kid growing up with all the usual hormones and emotions. Until then, my reading had consisted of every Nancy Drew book ever written, and a few true crime books I had no business reading but did anyway (In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter are two that come to mind, both still freak the crap outta me.)
I had a friend whose mother had a big collection of bodice rippers. You know the kind, some guy that looked like Fabio on the cover, and a heroine with a 'heaving bosom' and a lot of other flowery purple prose that I didn't really understand but was titillated reading it anyway. My house wasn't the most open place to get information, so plenty was gleaned from those first romance novels. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was from a good, strict Catholic family with seven or eight kids. The whole family gave up TV for Lent (Give up TV? Gah! The thought still scares me) and prayed the rosary together at night.
Anyway, my friend sometimes came up with very weird, wrong ideas. I was never quite sure if it was her religious mother (yeah, the one with the collection of romance novels) or my friend's two ornery big sisters that steered her wrong, but it drove me crazy. While discussing the literary merits of our latest read one day, she informed me that a pregnant woman couldn't have sex. Now, I didn't know much, but for some reason, this sounded wrong to me. I marched up the the front of the classroom, where our English teacher sat grading papers, and flat out asked her. To her credit, she didn't choke or send me to see Sister Whoever, the principal. She just blinked and replied, "Of course they can. In the later months, the doctor might advise against it. But other than that it's fine."
By the time I'd returned to my desk my friend was practically crawling underneath it with shame that I'd asked a teacher such a thing. But I figured, hey, a girl needs a place to get some accurate answers. Maybe her mother intended to scare her straight by telling mistruths, but I was having none of it. I had questions and wanted answers. My lustful journey had begun.
As a writer, I knew early on that love and lust are the basis of all romance novels. If your book is long enough you might be able to make your characters fall in love. Much of the time, especially in shorter works, lust must suffice. The 'happily ever after' endings we talked about a couple weeks ago bear this out. In a longer romance book, the characters will fall in love and all will end rosily. In shorter works or short stories, the HEA is that my characters really lust after each other, and with a little good luck and large supply of condoms, that lust will carry them into something more.
I know they say great marriages are based on a friendship first, and I think that's true. But I also believe great love affairs are based on a healthy dose of lust. And that one, I didn't have to ask a teacher or somebody else's mom. I figured it out for myself.